Wednesday, September 18, 2013

YA Guy Reviews... DR. BIRD'S ADVICE FOR SAD POETS by Evan Roskos

When YA Guy was agent-hunting, it drove me mad when I’d get the form rejection saying something like: “Please understand that this business is very subjective….” Or “I don’t feel strongly enough about your work….” Or sometimes: “This just isn’t for me.”

Though I knew these sentiments were truthful, and kindly meant, they weren’t helpful. Any kind of rejection hurts. As a writer, you want everyone to like your book, and it’s a rude wake-up call when you realize not everyone will.

The same goes for reviews.

The same goes for this review.

Evan Roskos’s debut YA novel, Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets, has so much going for it. It’s literary. It’s beautifully written. It’s poignant. It’s funny. It’s true to life. It’s hopeful without being schmaltzy or unrealistic. In short, it’s a terrific book.

But I didn’t especially care for it.

Let’s review the book’s positive qualities.

1.)   It’s literary. The narrator, James Whitman, a teenager living with his brutal father and melodramatic mother (but not his older sister, whom his parents threw out of the house before the story starts), quotes his poetic namesake all the time. Plus, he likes to yawp.

2.)   It’s beautifully written. Here’s a small sample: “Beth looks like she wants to tell me more great things about me. Or maybe I’m just projecting. I’m probably projecting. I’m a projector. For example: The world is not terrible. I just keep thinking it is.”

3.)   It’s poignant. James’s deepening depression is sensitively handled.

4.)   It’s funny. As when James runs into the street to save a Tastykake wrapper, thinking it’s a broken-winged bird.

5.)   It’s true to life. See all of the above.

6.)   It’s hopeful without being schmaltzy or unrealistic. Though James finds some closure in his quest to rescue his sister and resolve his own emotional and romantic troubles, there’s no fairy-tale ending to this book.

So, in sum, Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets is well worth reading. That I didn’t particularly respond to it says only what agents, editors, publishers, writers, and readers have known all along: this business is very subjective.

And this particular book just wasn’t for me.

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